Gosh, it’s been a crazy day in North Carolina!
Earlier today, our state legislature overrode our governor’s veto of the unconscionable “Woman’s Right To Know” Act. The bill, which had been vetoed but has since been overriden and made law, requires a 24 hour waiting period for abortions and forces women to hear a political script from her doctor. It’s an awful law.
The man receiving the blame from activists is Republican State Sen. Stan Bingham. Bingham – as you may have heard in some pretty strong terms – originally voted against the law citing his four daughters’ intelligence and their capacity to make reproductive choices without government interference. His very unhappy Republican caucus strong-armed him and he complied. He would not vote for the override, and instead skipped the vote. The Republicans won; the bill became law.
Here’s the tough part for me: Stan Bingham is a good guy and a good legislator. Two years ago, he was the only Republican who voted for our state’s new comprehensive sex ed law. Without him, it wouldn’t have passed. He is one of the few legislators who will ask what research says on adolescent sexual health issues. I can send him journal articles, and he will ask follow-up questions. I watched him tear up as a 15-year-old mom told him about how she had been raped, then bullied at school for being “a pregnant slut”, then given birth. And I watched him have an honest conversation about what laws could protect her and how he could – and would – protect those laws.
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Reproductive health advocates in North Carolina have had harsh words for Stan Bingham today. Though I’m angry, I’m willing to say I think this is unfair. Bingham is in a tough position. He’s a moderate in a growingly extreme party with extreme leadership. I wish he had maintained his earlier opposition to HB 854. I wish he had disregarded his party and stood with the women of North Carolina today. But he’s not the enemy.
Our enemies are the people who wrote this law. They are the Crisis Pregnancy Centers that flooded legislators with false notions of easy, cheap abortions and helpless, misguided women. They are legislators like Ruth Samuelson, who stood to say she had been raped and purported to speak on behalf of all rape victims, saying they need this law as protection. (Why are all of our state’s rape survivors not after this woman with a pitchfork? I’ll grab mine if you grab yours.) They are the male legislators who boo-hooed about seeing their child’s ultrasound for the first time, pretending to know what’s best for women.
We will need Stan Bingham in the future. Conservative Republicans are in charge of this state for at least another 16 months. As I type, they are gerrymandering themselves into strengthened districts. I trust that they will try to further restrict abortion. They will try to undo our sexuality education law. They will challenge minor’s consent to health services and our landmark anti-bullying law – the first law in our state to protect people based on gender identity or orientation.
Being pro-choice is a moderate position. We need to be creating safe spaces for moderates like Stan Bingham. We need to be his ally as much as he’s been ours. Yes, I’m angry at his decision to walk away from today’s vote. But I think he’s the wrong target, and I think we’re risking a great ally by making him the enemy.